The Truth about Facebook, Ads, and Personal Pictures

Facebook Responds

A response to: Debunking Rumors about Advertising and Photos

The “Truth” about profile pictures appearing in Facebook Ads (according to Facebook). Facebook reacts to the recent outcry regarding the misinformation about their policy on using personal/profile information for Ads.

From the Facebook Blog:  “In the past couple of days, a rumor has begun spreading that claims we have changed our policies for third-party advertisers and the use of your photos. These rumors are false, and we have made no such change in our advertising policies…”

The Rant Begins:

The Source of the personal violatons was from 3rd party applications and Advertisers, not Facebook.

So many people are willing to click on any link that is put in front of them without considering the source or the consequences. Facebook applications (having nothing to do directly with facebook itself) are no different. These applications are created and developed by 3rd parties with their own agenda. Some are legit, but there are also some that walk the line (and sometimes cross it) when it comes to using or protecting your personal information. Every time you add, enable or allow an application to access your profile, you sell a small piece of yourself. There is a reason you see a extra “do you want to allow this application” message when you add applications like the oh-so popular “share a drink with you friends”.

If you are concerned with your personal online safety and privacy, take responsibility for protecting your own data first. Know what your getting into or agreeing to before you click the “allow” button. Read and understand the terms of service and privacy statements for the applications you allow on your facebook account – or any online account for that matter.

That’s my rant and I’m sticking to it.

Have your own thoughts about this? Leave a comment.

Intermatic dropping out of the Z-Wave game?

Keep InTouch?

Just read an article on CEPro that Intermatic was pulling out of the Z-Wave market. Intermatic has been one of the leading producers and manufacturers of Z-Wave enabled Home Automation Products.  I have several Intermatic products installed in my home from both the HomeSeer and InTouch product lines and have become a fan of them for two reasons.

  1. Cost – The price was right compared to other similar products. HomeSettings products were a lower cost line with decent quality that I found suitable for some of  the “out of the way” areas of my home where aesthetics was not important. While the InTouch product line, which cost a little more, were solid and suitable for areas of my home where aesthetics was important. In comparison to other competitive products, the Intermatic products were priced a bit lower-sometimes significantly lower-than the “high-end” products, and to be honest, they look and work just as good.
  2. Quality – The Intermatic lines were also built well. The InTouch line was solid and good looking, while the HomeSettings line was a step down in terms of quality and aesthetics, it was still a good low cost alternative for secondary or out-of-sight installation.

So now what?

Intermatic is not the only producer of  Z-Wave products and as the article states, others will step in to fill the gap. In fact, Wayne-Dalton is showing signs of picking up the Intermatic lines and continuing development of the products. A search on Amazon shows some of the Intermatic products co-branded with Wayne Dalton while the Wayne Dalton Online Store shows items once offered by Intermatic now packaged and printed with the Wayne-Dalton logo.

The truth is that Wayne Dalton shared product lines with Intermatic and they developed a number of the Intermatic products.

“We shared our product lines until the middle of last year,” …  “We developed their USB sticks, keyfobs, conversion modules and wireless gateway. We shared development on two other products. We purchased their entire inventory of three-way switches to serve as an interim until we get our own out of UL.”
Yan Rodriguez, director of home controls for Wayne Dalton

Wayne Dalton to the rescue?

Given Yan Rodriguez’s statement, it appears that the stage has been set for Wayne  Dalton to pick up the Intermatic line and continue to produce and develop the products going forward. It sounds to me like they will continue to offer the remaining stock of Intermatic products until they get UL approval for their own products. Considering they have been developing the Intermatic USB stick, modules, keyfobs, etc, and sharing in development of “two other products”, it makes sence to me that they should pick up where Intermatic leaves off.

That’s my 2 cents. What do you think.

RSS: What is it, and how do I use it?

RSS What?

RSS – We’ve all heard about it (or at least should have by now), but may not really understand what it is, what it does, and how it can add value to what we do every day.

RSS, originally an acronym for “Rich Site Summary” today is known as “Really Simple Syndication” and is a technology that allow us to aggregate news and information with very little effort and time. In the “Old Days” of the internet, in order to keep track of sites or news we found online, we had to rely on the option of Bookmarking or creating “favorites” in our browser, and then manually visiting these sites to see if there were any new updates or additions. If your in a position where you need to keep up on lots of topics, news, and changes that happen daily, then you will likely build a collection of bookmarks that could grow well into the hundreds. Let’s face it, at that point there is no efficient way you can manually organize and check each of these sites individually and still keep up with all your daily responsibilities at the same time.

RSS To The Rescue!

Why is RSS a better option than Bookmarking? Simple! Time, Effort, Near Real-time news access. Think of it like this: Instead of making the time and effort it takes to run out to your local news stand for the various daily news papers, the news is now delivered right to your doorstep. Now consider the morning news edition, the evening edition, the late edition, etc. That adds up to a lot of news papers and a lot of trips to the news stand. And what about breaking news? There’s a good chance you’d miss out on something timely if you had to go get it yourself. RSS takes all the time and effort away from getting your news and information and delivers it ALL to you, keeping you informed and up-to-date!

Wow, That’s Great, But How Do I Use it?

To get started with RSS, you first need a RSS or “feed” reader. There are many available, but my favorites are Netvibes ( and Google Reader. For the record, I use netvibes for all my RSS needs. Because readers have different methods for adding and managing feeds, I will not cover that portion here and save it for another post.

Once you have decided on a reader, the next thing you need to do is find the RSS Feeds you want delivered. How do you do that? RSS feeds have adopted an icon that makes identifying them easy.

Standard RSS Icon
Standard RSS Icon

RSS Address Bar Icon
RSS Icon in Firefox Address Bar

If you see this icon on a web page or in your FireFox Browser Address Bar, then the site or page you are on has a live RSS feed that you can “subscribe” to or add to your RSS Reader. Some sites may also simply provide a “subscribe” link but be careful to be sure it is an RSS feed link and NOT an email newsletter subscription link.

Copy Link Location
Getting the RSS Address: Firefox

Once you have located the RSS Feed link you can right-click the link and select “Copy Link Location“. This will copy the URL of the RSS feed to the clipboard of your computer. Once you’ve copied the URL, you will need to paste it into your preferred RSS feed reader where it will display headlines, links and descriptions of the host web page or site.

Again, depending on your preferred reader, adding feeds may differ and I will not describe the different methods for each reader here. Consult the FAQ or instructions available from your Feed Reader for information on that.

In some limited cases, the “copy link location” option does not always produce a usable RSS feed link. If this happens, you are still able to click through on the link which will open a new page listing the RSS feed either in a readable web page format, or in the native RSS XML syntax. From this page, now you can simply copy the URL directly from the Browser’s Address Bar and paste it into your Reader.
RSS Feed Url Seen in Firefox
Copying the RSS Address from the browser

5 Tips for better Wiki pages.

Wikis are great for sharing, documenting and archiving information. We Recently launched one for our company’s intranet to improve communication and allow better collaboration. Because wikis are intended to be an open platform to promote communication and collaboration equally across the organization, we try to encourage everyone to contribute. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that people can have different ideas regarding good page format, or may not know how to properly format a page at all. This can quidkly lead to mess of unruly pages that are difficult to read and navigate. So, I put together a list of five tips that I thought would help make formating wiki page content a little easier and make the pages less challanging to read and navigate.

When creating a new page, or editing an existing one, keep these tips in mind.

  1. Say No To Word: Unless the wiki has a built-in feature to deal gracefully with Microsoft Word syntax, Please Please Please…avoid copy-and-paste from word documents. Word documents create ugly HTML syntax that is difficult to edit and manage within the wiki (or any wysiwyg or web editor for that matter). It also creates pages that are structurally difficult to read and navigate without additional formatting and editing. As an alternative, save word documents as Rich Text Files, or plain text files then copy-and-paste into the wiki from there, then edit and format the content in the wiki using the wiki editing tools.
  2. Use Headers and sub-headers: Add headers and sub-headers when appropriate to organize your content on the wiki page. Using headers will not only help to visually separate each important section of your page, but they will also auto-create a page index or TOC (Table of contents) making it easy for users to find and navigate page content.
  3. Making The list: Use Ordered (numbered) lists and Unordered (bulleted) lists when creating lists of items. This makes each item in a list easy to identify and improves readability.
  4. Use An Opening Introduction: If your creating a new wiki page, always try include some information in a small paragraph at the top of each page describing what the content is about, and how it can be used. It is also helpful to include a small description below each heading and sub-heading as well. This helps readers to quickly identify the content and how it can be used.
  5. Can I Quote You On That? : Provide citations and supporting links to references when possible. Besides giving credit where credit is due, citations allows readers to confirm the validity of your input and lead them to additional sources of reference.

Do you have any other tips? Please leave a comment and share them here.

Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope Caters to Web Applications and the Cloud

I’ll admit, I am a fan of Ubuntu. I run it on all my personal and home computers with the exception of one (8 in total) and have nothing to complain about. Now the new version, expected to be released in April 2009, is expected to see improvements in booting and operational speeds. That is always a good thing, but what I don’t understand are the claims that the new OS version, code named “Jaunty Jackalope” will cater to Web Applications and the Cloud (cloud computing). I have not heard of any other company making such claims, and I wonder exactly how they plan to “cater”. As far as I can see, no other details have been discussed. It’s unclear if Canonical will make OS or code changes somehow to improve support for web applications, or just make them more available through the UI.

Change of Plans – As I was writing the above, Something occurred to me.

Some points of interest

  • Google uses a custom version of Ubuntu for internal operations.
  • Google has generated a lot of Buzz recently about entering the office application market opposite Microsoft.
  • Canonical/Ubuntu has made impressive progress bringing an alternative desktop operating system to market and is regarded by some as an acceptable replacement to Microsoft.
  • Following the Quote from Mark Shuttleworth himself, it does sound like Canonical and Google have been at least talking about ways to “finalize Jaunty plans”.
    "We will be gathering forces in Mountain View on 8th - 12th December to
    survey the upstream landscape and finalize Jaunty plans, enjoying the
    excellent hospitality of Google and Silicon Valley's abundance of talent
    and innovation." - Mark Shuttleworth

Warning – Pure Speculation Follows:

Is it possible that Canonical’s intention to cater to web apps means teaming up or forming some sort of partnership with Google to use or push Google’s suite of web applications (Google Apps) while providing a competitive operating system to rival Microsoft?


How-to: Active Directory Authentication with WordPress

Why Use Active Directory with WordPress?

I recently set up a WordPress Blog internally for our company to use over our intranet to help improve communication, collaborate, share and develop ideas, and stay informed about company announcements or current events.. etc.

One of the requirements I had was to allow authentication against our Active Directory. Yes, we operate a Windows network primarily, but you can also authenticate against other LDAP directories as well. This was important from an IT position as well as the participants of the blog. I felt people would be more likely to participate if they didn’t have to manage separate user accounts for each service on the intranet. I also set up a Wiki that is Active Directory enabled. I’ll post about that at a later time. The point is, it makes little sense to create different credentials for each user with each new service. It not only becomes a hassle for IT to track and manage the accounts, it’s also a drag for participants to keep track of and manage their username and password pairs for each service. The result would most likely lead to lack of use and that is not what we want.

Integrating the existing Active Directory accounts means that each participant can access these services using the same credentials they use to access or log into their network accounts and desktops. When time comes to change passwords, you need only to update the Active Directory account and your done. Simple! What could be better?

Starting Point

The first thing we needed to do was find out how to include AD Authentication with WordPress 2.5. There are a small number of plugins that claim to allow AD Authentication, but from what I came across, most of them were older and no longer actively maintained. But…there were two in particular that still showed signs of being actively maintained and had promise.

The first was was aptly called “Active Directory Authentication

The other plugin and the ultimately the one I managed to successfully include is wpDirAuth.

The Trials

Although I was able to get wpDirAuth to work with WordPress 2.5, there was a catch. The current “Official” release of wpDirAuth as of this writing is version 1.2 which is not compatible with WordPress 2.5 so there was some work involved to make this happen. I visited the wpDirAuth plugin page to look at the install directions. They seemed easy enough. It wasn’t until I actually installed and activated the plugin that I realized it wouldn’t work. My next stop was the support channel that the author set up to help troubleshoot install and authentication issues. It was here that I learned there was a patch already available and provided by a generous wpDirAuth user – Adam Yearout. I applied the patch and then tried to login with my network credentials again, and … No luck! By now I was scratching my head. Searching and reading all the information I could find, I finally found myself on the wpDirAuth Developer Support Channel. This was another channel set up specifically for developers. It was here that I uncovered some clues as to what was happening and a small code tweak that was necessary to overcome the problem. Apparently, the author of the plugin assumed that the login name was also the name associated with the Active Directory Account Email, which in most cases is true, but not always. For example username: johndoe would by default have an email In my case, my email and name and login name were not the same, so the logic that the plugin author used would not work. The good news is that the fix is a fairly simple one if you know where to look and the dev channel contained all the clues needed to find the info.

Setting up wpDirAuth with WordPress 2.5

For this how-to, I am using wordpress 2.5 installed on an Ubuntu 8.04 LTS server With Apache2 and PHP5. There is no GUI and I am not running an ftp server on this server so all settings and changes are completed using putty over SSL. Continue reading “How-to: Active Directory Authentication with WordPress”

Zone Alarm Plus Microsoft Update Prevents Internet Access

I received a number of call from friends, family, and clients complaining that they were unable to access the internet on Wednesday July 9th. The first one had me puzzled. Running through the typical troubleshooting process. and finally disabeling the Zone Alarm Firewall which resolved the access issues. Then the next call came in with the same issue, Then another..etc. The common factor for all these systems were that each system was was running windows XP SP2 and Zone Alarm. So What was it about Zone Alarm that all of a sudden prevented access to the internet?

The Problem

After a bit of poking, proding and searching, I came across the cause to this problem. Microsoft released a few security patches on Tuesday. One of these patches (KB951748) was released to address a DNS flaw that could lead to DNS cache poisoning. Unfortunately, the hotfix conflicts with Zone Alarm and prevents internet access. Systems that were setup to automatically download and install Windows Updates received this patch.

What I can’t believe is that I’ve seen and heard “Professional” support people actually suggest the fix is to uninstall the firewall. Seriously? Are you Kidding? That is not a solution!

Other suggestions were touninstall the hotfix. Although this would work, you might still be open to the DNS flaw and at risk. Another was to turn the firewall settings to Medium protection. Not as bad as removing the firewall, but still not really an option.

So how does one overcome this annoying issue?

Zone Labs recommended solution is to download and install a new version of Zone Alarm released to resolve this little issue.

Other less desirable and temporary options are:

Uninstall The offending Microsoft HotFix

  1. Click the “Start Menu”
  2. Click “Control Panel”, or click “Settings” then “Control Panel”
  3. Click on “Add or Remove Programs”
  4. On the top of the add/remove programs dialog box, you should see a checkbox that says “show updates”. Select this checkbox
  5. Scroll down until you see “Security update for Windows (KB951748)”
  6. Click “Remove” to uninstall the hotfix

Set Zone Alarms protection to Medium

  1. Navigate to the “ZoneAlarm Firewall” panel
  2. Click on the “Firewall” tab
  3. Move the “Internet Zone” slider to medium

How To Set A Static IP In Ubuntu or Linux Using The Command Line

After installing Ubuntu Linux 7.10 Server Edition, I found that the IP address was assigned by DHCP served by my home router. This is fine for getting the server installed, but under most conditions, you will want to assign a static IP for your server. This Blog post will show you how to do just that. One of the issues with the Ubuntu server editions is that everything is done from a command line. There is no pretty windowed GUI.

One thing to note is that these commands need to be issued from either root or using sudo. I prefer to use the sudo su method to avoid having to type sudo each time I issue a command. (WARNING) if you do use sudo su, remember to exit the root when you are done.

In this example, I will be assigning the a static IP address of to the primary network interface on my server.
My network subnet is
My network gateway is
And my netmask is
Continue reading “How To Set A Static IP In Ubuntu or Linux Using The Command Line”

Google Preparing For a Mobile PowerPlay

Today I learned that Google is testing a new Free Mapping Service that will enable mobile phone users to determine their approximate location and retrieve mapping information without the use of GPS. Google continues to amaze me with their new products, ideas and innovation.

The details of how this all works are still unknown to me, but it has been speculated that that “general” location or area will be determined based on the closest receiving cell tower. Google has referred to this “general” location as “neighborhood-level information”. Sure, you won’t be able to get specific long/lat location, but (and this is my own speculation) you can get close enough to determine what shops, restaurants, events, etc (read consumables) are in the “general” area, and maybe develop an ad service suggesting locations of interest based on the users profile, habits, etc.. You know the typical song and dance.

Heres another hook. For all this to work, the mobile user will be required to download and install Google’s Free software on their mobile phones to use the service. Now I don’t know about you, but this is screaming “ANDROID!!!” Android is Google’s ambitious open source call to a mobile phone operating system. If your not familiar with Android, see my earlier post.

Finally, take into account Google’s announcement to bid on on wireless spectrum in the 700MHz band in late January when the U.S. Federal Communications Commission begins auctioning that resource, and things start to add up. This isin’t much of a surprise because Google had dropped some nuggets of information in the recent past showing some interest in this, but it was always unclear as to why.

Heres my take. Google has the collective resources to feel the winds of change surrounding their core internet based services. Users are not tied to their computers anymore. We are sharing information and data, collaborating across devices and platforms, making phone calls from our computers and browsing the web on our phones. Google sees the opportunity here and wants a piece – The First Piece. Traditional service providers are scrambling to change their business models to adapt to the open exchange and this is where Google has the advantage and always has. Google has developed some strong strategic alliances on the internet and mobile playing fields, and now they (Google) are putting all the pieces together. Don’t get me wrong. It won’t be easy, and there is a long road ahead for them, and many who would love to see them stumble. Either way, Google is about to shake things up.

Another example why Open Source is a good thing! (MySql + SharpDevelop)

I have some new additions and apps that I wanted to integrate into our company web (the company I work for) but this required upgrading from ASP.Net 1.1 to ASP.Net 2.0. Seems simple enough, right? I wish..!!

The site uses the MySql .NET Connector (a native ADO connector for .Net) available from MySQL AB. This worked flawlessly under the .Net 1.1 framework. I set up the 2.0 framework on our dev server and started testing the site localy to make sure all existing features and functions would still work after the switch. I am happy to announce that everything was working as expected (on the dev server). Now it was time to request the upgrade through the host. After receiving the confirmation that the request was completed, I open a browser and hit the company web. Warning Warning Error Error Error. Oh no!! What happened?

With the release of .NET 2.0, Microsoft included a new security model using a greater level of restriction. The host that is hosting our web makes use of these restriction levels and as it turns out, the .Net connector that we were using violated some .Net security and triggered a Security Exception.

Exception Details: System.Security.SecurityException: That assembly does not allow partially trusted callers.

I have to give Props to Microsoft for making the problem easy to identify. Looks like all I need to do is allow partially trusted calls from the MySql connector.

Here is where the Beauty of Open Source Software comes in.
Continue reading “Another example why Open Source is a good thing! (MySql + SharpDevelop)”